Sunday, December 25, 2016

Depressed Christians?

Can a mature believer experience depression?

When you recognize that depression is basically due to self loathing and guilt over an  increasingly acute sense of extreme failure, yes depression can be and often is a part of the maturing Christians experience.

And that is because we are all extreme failures (Rom 3:23. For a fuller discussion click here and here). Not necessarily in the worldly sense but in the godly sense. When we recognize we were in fact created to know God, enjoy God and show forth (glorify) God, spreading his love and greatness to our fellow image bearers as well as all creation (i.e. stewarding the planet) and the scope and significance of this, yet none of us meet the mark, not even close, we only began to see the extent of our failure.

Without the love of God moving us to show forth his glory we are all about ourselves; about self promotion; being our own god. The very same disposition that Adam and Eve bought in to and adopted. In short we are totally incapable of fulfilling our design. Only by the life of God infused in us by the Spirit of God can we bring forth true, lasting life again.  

And what was God's warning? The day you do (seek to be your own god) you will die. Die? In what sense did we die? We rejected the source of life itself, God. We "unplugged" from the life source if you will. The life of God (some would argue the very Spirit of God) immediately left us, eventually resulting in our physical death as well. And from that day until now we have been desperately seeking to replace what we lost (God) by being our own god i.e. through self effort...using created things as a means. 

However as God is diffusive (overflowing and out flowing), we were designed to be diffusive, with one key difference. God is the source of life (Jn 17:3) , we are the conduits through which his life flows. First back to him and then out to others. If we cut ourselves off from the "life source" we can not and will not diffuse his love and glory as we were created to. It's simply no longer there to be diffused. We will be takers, not the givers we were originally designed to be.

So what than happens to us, as we become more and more *aware of our total bankruptcy? We feel guilt. And not just because it's some vague sense of self imposed punishment, but because we are in fact guilty. We do not do what we were designed to do i.e. love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbors as ourselves.

*An increasing and deeper awareness of our rebellious independence from God is actually a sign of increasing maturity. 

So as maturing believers we now battle. We battle with an increasing awareness of the depth of our brokenness along with an increasing awareness of the love of God for us as his broken but redeemed, adopted and perfectly cherished children.  

The irony is our increasing awareness that we are perfectly loved because of Christ, allows us to be increasingly honest with how unlovely we truly are. We know God does not and will not reject us due to our brokenness because Christ took our deserved rejection/banishment and condemnation for us. And this work by him on our behalf  is infinitely greater in depth and width than our brokenness (Rom 5:20). 

So we struggle between a growing awareness of God's perfect and infinite love for us and our total and complete desire to operate outside of this love i.e. our rejection of it and our embracing self loving.

I propose that the awareness of our true guilt and it's subsequent depression is an opportunity and possibly even a call by God to look to Christ, forcing us to dig deeper into who Christ is, what he did and why he did it. It is an opportunity to look hard at the extent of his work on our behalf and come to rejoice in it more and more. Our depression forces is to go back time and again to drink from an infinite, never ending well of God's love and forgiveness. And thanks be to God, his is the final word and our brokenness is not.  

Who are some believers who have admitted to struggles with depression. King David, ("why are you cast down oh my soul..."),  Job, Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, Jonah, Paul the apostle, Martin Luther. Charles Spurgeon, Henri Nouwen, John Piper to name some better known believers. 

"For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again." 2Co 1:8-10

"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 

For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh...

...So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."  2Co 4:8-11, 16-18  

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Grace to you
Jim Deal